REVIEW: Kardashev – Liminal Rite

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I must admit to having never seen the term “deathgaze” before I came by the music of KARDASHEV, maybe because I have never been very much into the Final Fantasy video game series. In the game series, deathgaze is a flying monster with skeletal features, a sort of winged death. In 2020, KARDASHEV, a band hailing from Arizona, practically birthed a new subgenre of metal, one which they rather befittingly named ”deathgaze,” with their debut EP “The Baring of Shadows.” Mixing atmospheric elements with brutal deathcore in nothing short of haunting and novel ways, this metal bunch is the embodiment of the sound I would reckon best fits the description of the video game monster: simultaneously soaring high across the skies, light as a feather, and wreaking havoc like a true harbinger of death. Unsurprisingly, the band’s unique blend of brutal and serene eventually stirred up the attention of Metal Blade Records, through which their new studio album “Liminal Rite” just came out, on June 10th, 2022.

This new outing is a conceptual selection of songs dealing with the themes of nostalgia, dementia, and unpleasant memories. One of the best or at least the most accurate definitions of nostalgia that I have yet come by is that of bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past – with the emphasis being on the adjective, bittersweet. If “Liminal Rite” was to be described with only one word, the best candidate would definitely be ”bittersweet.” The album is layered thick with the sounds of yearning, almost to the point of tearing your heart out of your chest – and it’s just friggin’ perfect! The band states on their website, ”Imagine THY ART IS MURDER if their songs were expanded with elements of bands like ALCEST, THE CONTORTIONIST, NE OBLIVISCARIS, FALLUJAH, SLEEP TOKEN, and RIVERS OF NIHIL,” and they had me at this point, even before I had heard a single note. Lucky for me, as I plunged deep into their new album, the music proved that they weren’t lying. Oh, boy, they were not lying.

The album is structured around a story about an aging man who is slowly losing his grip on reality because of dementia. Obviously, the overarching theme instantly resonates with the air of the haunting song about a loved one inflicted with the same condition, “Constance,” released by SPIRITBOX in late 2020. If Courtney LaPlante & co. gave me goosebumps with this beautiful track, KARDASHEV‘s new outing does not pale in comparison. The story begins with a brief narration by the drummer, Sean Lang, leading to “The Approaching of Atonement,” which introduces the band’s code of metal conduct: it is about contrasting heart-wrenching, beautiful, and ethereal melancholy with harsh black-metal and deathcore riff assaults. It must be said that much of the haunting appeal is due to the insanely versatile vocalist, Mark Garrett; his vocal delivery is sublime, ranging from black-metal snarls to death-metal roars to nothing short of angelic clean singing. There is an almost extraterrestrial quality to his vocal range.

The album is consistently so amazing that it’s hard to single out a song. The band switches gears rather smoothly from the soul-crushing doom of “Compost Grave-Song” to the RIVERS-OF-NIHIL-meets-SWALLOW-THE-SUN vibes of “Lavender Calligraphy,” as well as from the somewhat ENSLAVED-like blackened-prog vibes of “Silvered Shadows” to the ethereal post-rock of “A Vagabond’s Lament.” As an added bonus, the album closer, “Beyond the Passage of Embers,” features BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE saxophonist Cristoph Clöser, adding a smoky finishing touch to the album. If this doesn’t blow your mind to shreds, I don’t know what will. KARDASHEV is one of those bands that make you want to keep rummaging through the piles of rubbish, year after year, in the high hope of finding something truly amazing – and then, one day, you come by something like this and you will be happy like a dog with two tails.

For a science-fiction nerd, the band’s name might ring a bell; in the 1960s, Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev introduced the Kardashev scale, which is an energy-based method of measuring the technological advancement of a civilization, and it has been a staple in sci-fi for classifying alien civilizations ever since – with the sentiment typically being that the higher the alien civilization ranks on the scale, the more likely it is that we should do our darndest to avoid them. The reasoning is that the more energy they could command, the more powerful their transmissions would be – and the more likely they would be to kick our ass pretty badly. The band, KARDASHEV, sure know how to command raw energy and the transmission of emotion is nothing short of haunting. “Liminal Rite” is album-of-the-year material, no two ways about it. These deathgaze daddies sure know how to simultaneously break and mend your heart.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. The Approaching of Atonement
  2. Silvered Shadows
  3. Apparitions in Candlelight
  4. Dissever
  5. Lavender Calligraphy
  6. The Blinding Threshold
  7. Compost Grave-Song
  8. Cellar of Ghosts
  9. Glass Phantoms
  10. A Vagabond’s Lament
  11. Beyond the Passage of Embers

Lineup

Sean Lang – drums

Mark Garrett – vocals

Nico Mirolla – guitars

Alex Rieth – bass

Label

Metal Blade Records

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